Riding the storm – fast progress towards the finish

Progress in the last couple of days has been fantastic. Last week we had
to take a difficult choice to slow down to avoid the worst of a severe
depression that was about to cross our path, as it turned out we saw some
horrible conditions and had some damage to sails, Cessna ahead of us was
forced to stop the boat during the worst of the gale as a safety
precaution in enormous breaking seas, all in all we were happy with our
choice although it had cost us quite a few miles to the leaders.

In the past few days on the other hand we’ve had the opposite scenario,
the extra-tropical storm Beryl was behind us and threatening to give us a
nasty battering and all considered the safest option was to try to run as
fast as possible ahead of the centre of the cyclone which then hopefully
would have passed to our stern on its northward trajectory… The picture
shows the very active centre of the low that we are running away from and
it’s predicted position behind us, and towards the north.

So, with a double incentive, avoiding a storm and getting as fast as
possible to the finish line, we’ve been pushing hard and clocked some
impressive mileage. Before the winds built up yesterday we were surfing
along, fastest boat in the fleet, with the biggest masthead spinnaker,
then before sunset the sky started to be covered in clouds, the wind was
backing to the south and increasing, all signs of the approaching low
pressure system. We changed to the smallest spinnaker, a very heavy number
that we’d used extensively in the southern ocean and we kept riding the
building seas and winds. During the night we had steady 30-35 knots with
the maximum gust at 40 knots, a bit more than we expected but decided to
ride it with the spinnaker up, the boat was surfing often at 15 to 18
knots in an exuberant power display, sometimes surfing at over 20 knots
between two walls of spray it felt great and i just kept suppressing the
thoughts of something going wrong at such speeds with the spinnaker up in
that wind…

All has held together so far and the miles to go kept decreasing rapidly
until earlier on we crossed the psychological milestone of 1000 miles to
the finish. The wind is still strong but should start decreasing within
hours and hopefully this will become another successful storm tactics pub
story to tell!

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